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Today, we are entering the magical world of the polytunnel; a tunnel which, once you go down you will never turn back. If you have found your way to this blog, it is highly likely that you are an avid gardener. Am I right? Even if my assumption somewhat misses the mark, I bet you at least dabble with gardening – after all, reports have shown that over 27 million people in the UK enjoy a spot of gardening, so we are a bit of a green-thumbed nation. However, with a painfully unpredictable weather system, and an increasingly serious overpopulation problem leading to reduced land space, gardening isn’t exactly the walk in the park that Alan Titchmarsh may lead you to believe that it is.

So, what we really need is a way of increasing (or at least optimising) your garden space, in addition to a method of waterproofing your crops so that they can withstand the temperamental British climate, no matter the season. Drumroll please for…the polytunnel!

A polytunnel is essentially a long tent, typically made from a steel frame with a polythene cover suspended over the top of the frame. They basically take the place of the common greenhouse, but due to the materials the structure is made from, polytunnels tend to be cheaper and easier to maintain and transport. Like a greenhouse, the whole point of a polytunnel is to aid crop growth, which is essentially achieved by extending your crops’ growing season by providing a warm and toasty environment for your crops to prosper in.

Of course, the way you use your polytunnel is totally up to you. If you wish to use it in the place of a shed, therefore simply as an outdoor storage space, then that is your prerogative. Likewise, people have even been known to use their polytunnels as storage for livestock – who would have thought it?! I am forced to attach a warning to that suggestion however – I am no farmer, and I am certainly not a vet, so check with a professional before carting your chickens into your polytunnel!

Best Polytunnels list below: 

Comparison table: Best Polytunnels on the UK Market in 2021

ProductWhat We ThinkPrice

VonHaus Compact Walk In PVC Plastic Greenhouse with 6 Shelves

Pros:
  • Low price, yet still high quality
  • Clever design features, like the four removable shelves for indoor space optimisation
Cons:
  • No added ventilation options, apart from the one panel door
  • More of a shed shape than tunnel, giving users slightly less space for growing.

VonHaus Polytunnel Greenhouse - Walk-In Polytunnel Tent with Steel Frame

Pros:
  • Great added features like hot tape and ventilation windows
  • Huge size
Cons:
  • Its size could make it too big for some gardens
  • On the expensive side

Outsunny-Steel Frame Poly Tunnel Steeple Greenhouse

Pros:
  • Low price, high quality
  • Ideal for smaller outdoor spaces
Cons:
  • Too small for many users – this is not a walk-in polytunnel
  • The plastic connectors used in the frame structure may not withstand windy weather.

D4P Display4top Greenhouse Grow House with 8 Shelves

Pros:
  • Well made – sturdy, rust protected frame and flaps to secure down PVC cover
  • Mid-size – big enough to host a fair amount of vegetation, whilst not being so big that it will take up an entire garden
Cons:
  • No ventilation windows
  • The shelves are not removable, so this product may not be the most appropriate for tall-growing plants or vegetation

VOUNOT Polytunnel Greenhouse Walk In

Pros:
  • Huge size, allowing for lots of plant storage
  • High quality construction, and at a reasonable price
Cons:
  • Could be too big for some gardens

Livestock aside, this article will be focussing on using your polytunnel for crop growth, so if that sounds like your kind of thing, then stay tuned. Before jumping straight into the range of polytunnels available to the buyer on the UK market in 2021, it is first important to establish exactly what you should be looking for in your search for a brand new polytunnel.

What you should be looking for in your search for a brand new polytunnel

Space

Space and sizing are always important considerations in practically any new garden purchase. No two gardens are exactly the same, so a product which would be the perfect fit in one garden may be totally wrong for another. With this in mind, it is important to take a look at your outdoor space before buying a new polytunnel – perhaps take some measurements and bring these along on your search to avoid that sod’s law moment of realisation that you invested in a product which is too big, small, wide or thin for your outdoor space.

Now for the most part, the bigger the polytunnel, the better. This is simply because with a bigger size comes more space for growing – simple, right? Well, it is actually less simple than you may think. What is also essential to bear in mind is the fact that, as mentioned above, for some people, a huge polytunnel will be nothing but a hindrance for them if, for example, they have a small garden. Despite this, this review will take the stance that a bigger polytunnel means a better polytunnel, simply because our aim is to judge the best functioning polytunnel on the market.

With this in mind, another consideration to bear in mind is the influence of the polytunnel’s height and length on their overall size. This is specifically relevant to the type of crops you are looking to grow. If you need a polytunnel which will house taller plants like fruit trees, then height will be a super important factor in your search. If, however, you simply need a polytunnel to grow vegetation such as carrots, cabbages and lettuce, then height won’t be an important factor and you would be better off conserving height and increasing the length of your polytunnel. The polytunnel does, however, have to be tall enough to fit you – otherwise who will see to your precious veg?!

Materials

The materials used to make your polytunnel are also an important consideration to factor in. Firstly, it is essential that the frame of your polytunnel is sturdy, as without a frame your polytunnel will be pretty useless. This means that you should ideally be looking for a steel framework, which ideally will be galvanised or powder coated for extra protection.

After framework, the next most important consideration is the quality of the plastic cover. Naturally, it is this part of the polytunnel which is the most exposed to the elements, so it is essential that the plastic used is waterproof and tear proof – in case the weather gets a little too wild. Likewise, any windows or doors which are built into the polytunnel must be fully sealable, otherwise you might have leakage issues.

Assembly and Ease of Use

Unfortunately, it is pretty difficult (scratch that – impossible) to have a polytunnel delivered to your house fully constructed and ready to go. This means that self-assembly is required with a polytunnel, but I know how it is – life is busy and not everyone has hours to spare to put their brand spanking new polytunnel together. Likewise, not all of us are blessed with DIY skills, so ideally your new polytunnel will be fairly easy to put together. In this review we will touch on the ease at which the tunnel is constructed, as well as the ease of use in general, in terms of transportability, added features and room for movement inside the tunnel.

Price

Let’s be honest – money makes the world go around. I could list the best polytunnels to ever grace the gardening world, but it would all be for nothing if the products were totally unaffordable. So, don’t worry – this is a list of affordable polytunnels, which will do the job without massively breaking the bank. Prices in this article range from £37.99 to £109.99.

 

To start our review off, we will take a look at the Outsunny polytunnel, the smallest and consequently cheapest product on our list. Unlike the products which we will later go on to look at, the Outsunny polytunnel boasts a wide and low design – so low that you can’t actually get inside the tunnel, which is exactly why it ranks at the bottom of our list. However, don’t be discouraged – this does not have to be a dealbreaker, it is simply a unique design feature of the product which will put some users off, but will likewise draw others in.

The Outsunny polytunnel is constructed with a strong steel frame, which is powder coated to increase strength and elongate the product’s lifespan. The frame also has five crossbars, joined together by high quality plastic connectors, making for a sturdy frame which shouldn’t buckle in bad weather, but with plastic connectors you can never truly be sure.

The plastic mesh cover features three roll-up doors, allowing you to access the crops within the tunnel, whilst also allowing you to zip them down and secure them closed when you are not tending to your crops, meaning maximum protection for your plants and vegetation.

The simple and small nature of this product lends itself to a super easy assembly process, saving you time and effort and increasing the portability of the product, as you can put it up and take it down in a matter of minutes. Big tick.

Of course, the downside to having such a low polytunnel (only 90cm in height) is the way in which this dimension limits the user’s range of movement within the polytunnel. In order to access the plants within, the user is required to bend down and tend to their crops. However, for some people, this would be the desired type of polytunnel, as it takes up very little space and is perfect for smaller crops which do not require vertical space to grow upwards. We already know that the tunnel measures 90cm in height, but with a 90cm width and 270cm length, it is the perfect size for a smaller outdoor space. However, for those looking to use their polytunnel to house multiple different types of vegetation, this product will likely be too small.

It is a great starting place for new gardeners, ideal for tight budgets and perfect for those with small gardens, but pales in size when compared with other polytunnels.

Next up is the second smallest and second cheapest product on our list – the VonHaus Compact walk in polytunnel. It is only a small jump up in price, compared to the Outsunny polytunnel, but the jump up in size is considerable. What really sets the Outsunny polytunnel aside from the VonHaus polytunnel is the fact that the latter is walk-in, meaning there is actually enough space for the user to get inside the polytunnel.

However, calling this product a polytunnel does feel somewhat misleading, as the shape of the product is more reminiscent of a greenhouse or shed. Measuring 193cm in height, 73cm in depth and 143cm in width, this ‘polytunnel’ has a lot more vertical space than horizontal space, which is something to bear in mind in terms of what kind of space you have outside. This vertical design can actually be useful if you have a smaller outdoor space, as it takes up very little space on the ground (only 143cm by 73cm), whilst still offering a fair amount of vertical space within the actual ‘tunnel’.

The reason we can boast of the fairly generous indoor space is due to the product’s built-in shelves, of which there are two on the ground and four raised off the ground. Each shelf has a weight capacity of 8kg, which is pretty impressive and is more than enough weight for growing vegetation or plants. One thing which I really like about this product is the fact that the manufacturers have clearly considered ease of use for the user. I say this because they have designed the inside space of the polytunnel so that there is a space of 41cm between each shelf, which is enough space for most small-sized vegetation to grow. However, they actually go one step further, in that they have made these shelves removable, so that if you wish to grow tall vegetation which requires a fair amount of vertical space, you can simply remove the shelves and you are sorted. I love a spot of thoughtful design.

In terms of the actual construction of the product, it is made from a steel frame which, like the Outsunny frame, is powder coated for extra strength, with plastic connectors linking the different parts of the frame together, so fingers crossed that these connectors will keep their strength in bad weather. The frame supports a PVC plastic cover, which is transparent and weather resistant – meaning it is both waterproof and rip-proof, which is good news if a storm is forecast. The user can gain access to the inside of the polytunnel through the one panel door, which can be rolled up and zipped close for ultimate protection. It is a well-designed and functioning panel door; however, it is the only entry and exit point to the polytunnel, which does raise some ventilation concerns with me. The problem is that, if the UK were to get an unexpected heatwave (I know – one can dream!), then the crops inside the polytunnel could easily overheat and dry out, so it is a good idea to invest in a polytunnel which affords you the option to open a couple of windows here and there for ventilation.

However, aside from the minor ventilation issue and the unique shape which somewhat limits the indoor space of the product, this is a low-priced, high functioning polytunnel which has most certainly earned its place on the list of the best polytunnels on the UK market in 2021.

Coming in at third in our review is the Display 4 Top ‘Greenhouse Grow House’ polytunnel, a mid-size polytunnel which is a serious step up in size from the second, and especially first, products, accompanied by a minor step up in price as well.

Let’s jump into the specifics. In terms of size, this polytunnel measures 195cm in height, 216cm in length and 143cm in width, making it a reasonably sized tunnel which could fit a fair amount of growing vegetation or plants, not to mention a couple of people. Another advantage to a bigger polytunnel is the fact that it affords more ventilation for the plants within, with the capacity for more air circulation leading to healthier and happier plants.

It is constructed with a strong frame, made from powder coated steel tubes, which have even been covered in a rust prevention spray paint. Theoretically, rust should not be an issue with polytunnels, as the plastic cover should protect the frame from any potential damage caused by rain. However, Display 4 Top has clearly thought about every eventuality and has added rust protection just in case of any rain invasions. I love this attention to detail from Display 4 Top because let’s be honest – things don’t always go to plan, so a little extra protection is never a bad thing.

One thing which is worth mentioning about the PVC plastic cover is the fact that it is fitted with extra material at the bottom, designed to be literally dug into the soil to give the polytunnel extra security in windy weather. This design feature acts much like guy ropes on a tent – rooting the polytunnel to the ground to stop it from flying off in the wind. And if this isn’t enough protection from the wind, the polytunnel even comes with its own guy ropes, however I wouldn’t hold your breath when it comes to the quality of these ropes – they are flimsy to say the least so adding your own reinforcements might be a good idea.

Like the VonHaus compact polytunnel, the Display 4 Top polytunnel comes fit with built-in shelving to support your vegetation. With this particular product, the shelves are designed to consist of two levels of shelving, lining the inside perimeter of the tent. This affords you tonnes of space to store your crops, and with the shelves being made from a heavy-duty wire meshing, the weight of your vegetation shouldn’t be a problem.

However, it is worth noting the fact that, whilst the wire meshing can be removed from the shelves, the shelving structure is built into the frame of the polytunnel, so you are somewhat restricted if you wish to remove the shelves all together. This means that if you have tall vegetation to grow, which needs a lot of vertical space, you may wish to invest in a different polytunnel.

One other issue with this product is the lack of extra ventilation, save for the one panel door (which can be zipped shut) and the extra ventilation afforded from the increased indoor space. A couple of ventilation windows would be a good added feature, however Display 4 Top somewhat make up for this shortcoming with the easy assembly of their polytunnel. Whilst this is a large structure, therefore will take you a fair amount of time and effort to construct, the manufacturers do go as far as to provide you with all the tools necessary to build the tunnel, which is a nice, user-friendly, added feature.


We’re bringing it back to the VonHaus family with this product, however where the VonHaus Compact was the baby of the family, this product is most certainly the parent. To put it simply – this polytunnel is huge.

It measures a whopping 2 metres in height, 3 metres in length and 2 metres in width, making it a monster of a garden accessory, big enough to house a jungle of plants. Whilst the polytunnel is certainly big from the outside, it is the inside space which is of a higher importance, something you certainly won’t have to worry about with the VonHaus polytunnel which has an impressive floor size of 6 metres squared. Wow.

So how is this beast constructed? Good question. The frame comes in four huge hoops with one swinging door at the front of the tunnel. The frame is made from a rust-resistant tubular steel, powder coated to enhance the frame’s overall strength and extend its lifespan. Unlike the other polytunnels we have looked at so far in this review, the VonHaus polytunnel frame is connected by screws and bolts and not plastic attachments. This feature works hard to reassure me of the sturdiness of the polytunnel, however it does of course make constructing the product that little bit harder. Despite saying this, with all of the assembly parts included, in addition to clear instructions to help the user, the assembly of this product is surprisingly easier than you would expect – plus once you’re done assembling the tent you will have a structure the size of a shed, so the assembly process is bound to be a little longer than that of VonHaus’ smaller counterpart polytunnel.

You have total freedom with this product, as it comes without any built-in shelves, making it ideal for housing a plethora of different types of plants and vegetation, whether tall or short. Furthermore, arguably my favourite feature of this product is the inclusion of not just one, not just two, but seven whole ventilation windows. This gives you total control over the climate within your polytunnel and ensures that your vegetation will never overheat and wilt – unless of course you forget to crack the ventilation windows open.

Another super clever and user-friendly feature of this product is the hot tape coverings on the metal frame. The hot tape essentially works by preventing the steel frame from heating up too much in hot and sunny weather, essentially protecting the plastic cover from melting or seriously deteriorating in hot weather. Very clever, VonHaus.

In terms of disadvantages, this product has few – but nothing is perfect. The primary issue with this product is its huge size, a factor which is concurrently its weakest and strongest feature. Of course, its size means that you have tonnes of growing space, however it also means that the polytunnel will take up tonnes of garden space, so certainly something to bear in mind if you have a small garden. The other minor disadvantage is the price, as this is the most expensive polytunnel featured on this review. Whilst this fact is far from ideal, I would argue that it is understandable given the sheer size (and of course all of the impressive added features) of this product.

Our final product is the VOUNOT polytunnel greenhouse, another absolute beast of a polytunnel which is incredibly similar to the huge VonHaus polytunnel described above.

Like the VonHaus polytunnel, the frame is constructed from four galvanised steel hoops, which support a strong, reinforced plastic cover. One key difference between the VonHaus polytunnel and the VOUNOT polytunnel is the door. Where VonHaus have included a swinging door, fit with a metal frame, VOUNOT keep it simple with a roll-up door which is secured shut with a zip. I do think that the VonHaus swinging door is a nice feature, however it is somewhat pointless, and given the extra effort the door takes in assembly, as well as the premium in price which you pay for this extra, I think VOUNOT have got the right idea in keeping things nice and simple with a roll-up plastic door.

Aside from this feature, essentially everything else is the same between the VonHaus and VOUNOT polytunnel, apart from one essential detail – the price. Given the fact that both polytunnels measure 2 metres in height, 3 metres in length and 2 metres in width, both have the same strong and sturdy frame, and both have ventilation windows, you would think that they would cost the same. However, VOUNOT is considerably cheaper than its competitor VonHaus, which is the very reason it wins the top spot on this list.

The competition is tight, but price tends to be the decider so, in my humble opinion, the VOUNOT polytunnel is the best polytunnel on the UK market in 2021.


About Terry Smith

I’m Terry Smith from gardentoolbox.co.uk, a professional landscape designer, hobbyist gardener, and barbecue fanatic with 20 years experience building and restoring. So as you go through my site you'll watch me document some of the professional garden installs I make as well as the major projects I take on at home. While sharing those experiences and guiding you, I'll be recommending some great tools I use to enable this along the way so you can really buy in confidence.

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